Thursday, January 08, 2009

How much money has been dropped on Gov. Rick Perry’s "vision" so far?

Deceased corridor plan pretty expensive


By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2009

The other day, when TxDOT officials were declaring the Trans-Texas Corridor dead (sort of), questions arose about how much money had been dropped on Gov. Rick Perry’s vision of 4,000 miles of tollways, railways and utility lines. TxDOT said it didn’t have those figures available immediately.

Well, actually, the agency did have them, or at least some of them, on its Web site. Thanks to reader Sharon Barta for chasing this down on the site. She said that with the recent redesign of the TxDOT Web site the report was hard to find, but was still there. Here’s the link.
Anyway, the tab through Aug. 31, 2008 was an impressive $131 million, including $30.7 million in the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31. The total includes $59.4 million for the I-35 corridor, $67.9 million for the I-69 corridor, $2.8 million for the proposed Loop 9 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and $1.2 million for expenditures applying to both the I-35 and I-69 corridor projects.

TxDOT, on its Web site, said these are the total for “engineering studies” (most of that for the federally required environmental studies going on on two of the corridors) and do not include “indirect costs.” So it’s not clear if this includes, for instance, any money spent on marketing and other public relations costs. We’ll check.
TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said Tuesday, and reiterated today, that the overwhelming amount of this money should not be considered wasted because the I-35 and I-69 corridor projects are still alive and probably will be built in some form someday.

On the other side of the ledger, there has been no revenue from the corridor plan so far, at least technically, and won’t be for many years. And the TxDOT spending is far from over because the environmental studies are still in progress.

TxDOT did get a $25 million payment from a consortium, led by Spanish tollroad company Cintra, that will build the southern 40 miles of Texas 130, and will get between 4.65 percent and 18 percent of the revenue in the first years of that 50-year contract. That road is not officially part of the I-35 corridor project, but in reality would be if the 300-mile tollway from San Antonio to the Oklahoma border is ever built out.

© 2009 Austin

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